Cases are baffling and puzzling to me. I'm trying to learn Polish and trying to master the cases, and I'm sincerely confused at all the different uses one case can have.

If one case is, say, used with a sentence's direct object, that seems like a clear, specific rule. You remember that rule, you're done. But then, that stretches beyond this simple grammatical rule and can also be used with different verbs. For instance, the accusative case is used for the verb to build, but it's also used for negation.

I'm struggling to formulate this question, so I'm sorry if it's confusing to people, but, how is it that the use of a case can go beyond specific, set rules, and also be used with different verbs. How is it that these verbs correspond to the basic premise of the case, such as "use this verb with this grammatical concept"? And for instance, the instrumental case is used for instance when certain nouns are an "instrument" in the sentence, such as "I'm doing something with", in English it looks like instrumental is used with the preposition with, when in truth it's used in Polish because the noun after "with" is the instrument with which the action (shown by the verb) is performed. But then, if the instrumental case is also used with a list of verbs, independently of that first rule, then isn't it a bit randomised ultimately? Do the nouns that follow these specific verbs somehow act as an "instrument" to the verb itself and that's why these specific verbs are systematically used with the instrumental, and it's the case for all the different cases?

I just don't understand, there's no logic to it. I realise this may be have been quite convoluted, so please ask me to clarify what I mean more if that helps. It just seems to me that most learning tools and websites don't go into those details, they just throw those rules at people's faces and except them to just take it in without questioning the basic functioning of the language.

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    There's considerable logic to it, but logic is not the important thing in grammar. In a heavily inflected language like Polish, there will be dozens or hundreds of idiomatic uses for every case, correlating with verbs, prepositions, and syntactic rules. Note that there are no articles in Polish - no the, no an. Polish speakers feel the same way about English articles as you do about Polish cases. Ask any Polish-speaking English learner about English articles; then stand back.
    – jlawler
    Jun 6, 2022 at 3:15
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    There may be a lesson to be learned here from the way in which EFL students are taught prepositions in English. A lot of what is achieved by using case in other languages is achieved through the use of prepositions in English. Students learning English often want to learn each preposition on its own. So they want to learn of and then at and so forth. This is nearly impossible and is entirely self-defeating. Students have to become comfortable with the fact that even as Advanced learners they will still be learning about prepositions in English. It's far more productive to learn how we ... Jun 6, 2022 at 14:57
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    ... use prepositions when talking about basic spatial relations, how we use prepositions when talking about time, verb + preposition combinations to talk about feelings and attitudes, and so on and so forth. And most students will pick up most usages by accidentally acquiring them, not by "learning" them. I'm no Polish teacher, but suspect that a similar approach is probably going to work best with Polish case. JLawler mentions that Polish students, and many others, find English articles difficult. They can take learners years to fully master! (But doesn't stop them communicating in English!) Jun 6, 2022 at 15:04
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    @FMB That's the way you learned your native language. The most secure way to learn a language is to go where it's spoken and cope. Eventually you will learn the language as well as you are going to. Nobody understands "the grammar itself and it works" -- that's what linguists are searching for; it's not what one starts with.
    – jlawler
    Jun 7, 2022 at 14:08
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    @Tristan I didn’t necessarily mean that the entire system was restructured. Even in relatively stable systems, case syncretism and excrescence do take place, such as the ablative and genitive merging in BS, or the accusative case being lost and subsumed under the genitive, ablative/partitive and nominative cases in Fenno-Samic. And even without case syncretism, changes in how cases are used are common, such as the instrumental gaining complementive force in languages like Russian or the genitive objects in Polish mentioned in the question. Jun 8, 2022 at 8:04


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